France stresses need for Iran to respect nuclear accord


PARIS: French authorities in a meeting Tuesday with an Iranian envoy stressed the need for Tehran to quickly respect the 2015 nuclear accord it has breached and “make the needed gestures” to deescalate mounting tensions in the Persian Gulf region.

A statement by the French Foreign Ministry said Seyed Abbas Araghchi gave a message to President Emmanuel Macron from Iranian leader Hassen Rouhani. Macron and Rouhani spoke last Thursday.

Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, who met with Araghchi, is working with European partners on an observation mission to ensure maritime security in the Gulf, where tensions have mounted after Iran’s seizure last Friday of a U.K.-flagged oil tanker.

Le Drian made no mention of a Europe-led “maritime protection mission” announced a day earlier by his British counterpart, Jeremy Hunt, offering instead what seems to be a softer version.

France is working “at this moment on a European initiative” with Britain and Germany, he told lawmakers, without elaborating. “This vision is the opposite of the American initiative, which is … maximum pressure” against Iran.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Agnes Von der Muhll said at a briefing that the initiative involves “appropriate means of surveillance” aimed at “increased understanding of the situation at sea” to facilitate traffic in a waterway that is critical to the global economy.

Iran’s seizure Friday of British oil tanker Steno Impero and its 23-member crew in the Strait of Hormuz aggravated tensions that were already mounting with Iran’s breaching of a 2015 Iran nuclear accord among world powers.

President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the accord last year, reinstating sanctions on Iran and raising tensions.

Nations still party to the shaky Iran nuclear deal plan to meet in Vienna on Sunday to see to what extent the agreement can be saved. The European Union said the meeting of China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany, chaired by the EU, “will examine issues linked to the implementation of the (nuclear deal) in all its aspects.”

Iran began openly exceeding the uranium enrichment levels set in the accord to try to pressure Europe into offsetting the economic pain of U.S. sanctions.

Le Drian stressed the need for diplomacy to de-escalate volatile tensions, which he has said previously could lead to “an accident.”